Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Eternal Moments

Once in a great while, we receive snatches, glimpses, of eternity.

I'm not talking about earth-shattering, Spirit-filled church services, although yes, that's definitely one aspect of our eternal future.

No ... to what I am referring are the moments we have with other Christians who give us strength and encouragement in such a unique and profound way that we feel as if we have been sitting at the very feet of Jesus.

Ever had that happen to you -- a communing of souls, so rich in discussion, so pure in direction, so genuinely filled with concern, hope, joy and love, that you wish you could sit and talk with that person endlessly?

I'm going through a very traumatic time circumstantially right now. One day I started thinking about the friends of Job and how they brought him down. And then I thought to myself, "I don't have friends like that. I have eternal friends."

I began to call to mind numerous instances when people surrounded me -- both when times were good and when times were not so good -- and time, in essence, stopped eternally.

We'll start the story series on these encounters tomorrow.

Tune in.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Hands of Jesus

My Physical Therapy Appointment.
Nicholasville, KY.

What does the phrase "searing pain" mean?

Let me tell you.

I am undergoing physical therapy for my feet so that they won't break. They have high arches. Normal people's feet have arches that raise from the ground at about a 10 percent angle, according to my podiatrist. My foot arches measure an angle of 45 percent.

I call it the Barbie Doll Foot Syndrome.

What happens when you have a high foot arch? In my case, at my stage in life?

Searing. Pain.

Definition of searing? "To char, scorch, or burn the surface of with or as if with a hot instrument."

That would be the sum of it. I have physical therapy three times per week, for about two hours per session. It involves a lot of weight lifting with the legs ... stretching ... and even a climbing machine that I have nicknamed, "The Spanish Inquisition Instrument." (No kidding -- if they'd had that thing during the Spanish Inquisition, they would have convinced anyone to say anything.)

After I finish with my exercises, my physical therapist goes to work on my feet and calves.

Enter, Searing Pain.

Think of it this way: Someone takes a hot iron and moves it up and down the backs of your legs and on the bottoms of your feet.


Usually I grab the sides of the table and hang on. Sometimes, I dig my fingernails into the palms of my hands. Lately, I've held onto a towel and twisted it. And twisted it. And twisted it. Once I almost cried. But see ... I decide I'm going to own this pain, so it's just better to breathe through it.

OK, so it's not as bad as childbirth ... but if you're a woman, imagine a mammogram that lasts for 20 minutes.

There ya go.

Now you'll find this probably a little amusing, or maybe strange ... but there is one thing I do in my mind's eye to get through this.

I close my eyes and tell myself that the hands pummeling my legs and feet are the hands of Jesus.

Did you ever read Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C.S. Lewis? There's a great description about how Aslan heals Eustace and transforms him from a dragon back to a boy. Here's how Eustace describes the encounter to his cousins, Edmund and Lucy:

"Then the lion said ... 'You will have to let me undress you.' I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it. The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I'd ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. ... He peeled the beastley stuff right off .... And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. ... After that, it became perfectly delicious, and as soon as I started swimming and splashing, I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why, I'd turned into a boy again."

Now that's sort of a gruesome way of describing the healing process -- both figuratively and literally -- but really, that's the way it is. You have to go through a great deal of pain before things feel "delicious" again, to use Eustace's words.

What does this have to do with a Christian Safehouse?

I got to thinking how much this person who helps me really is healing me and how much of a gift from God he is. Circumstances have forced me into financial difficulty. This kind man has a hardship program, whereby people can receive therapy at a certain rate that they can afford. It's such a gift.

And as much pain as I'm in during the therapy, I am so very grateful for it. Without it, I might degenerate even more. I don't know my prognosis yet, but I do know that in the month since I started, I am much stronger and am already seeing improvements.

What would happen if there was not a person to be the hands of Jesus to me?

People say all the time, "I'll believe in a miracle if Jesus comes and heals me Himself." But they miss the obvious. In my case, the obvious is financial provision for a place that I otherwise could never afford. The obvious is a team of physical therapist assistants, who observe my own efforts on each machine and help me regain strength. The obvious is the physical therapist, who tears into my muscles with strong hands and, like Aslan, tears up the offending part of the body that is making me weak.

Sometimes we hear the words, "the hands and feet of Jesus," and we think of that abstractly. In my case, this man HAS BECOME the HANDS of Jesus. He is there for many hours, working on many people, using his hands as a gift to them -- as a gift from God.

How am I the hands of Jesus? How are you the hands of Jesus? We may not be physical therapists, but within the body of Christ (or, the Christian Safehouse, as it were), we can be that encouragement, that healing force, that peaceful presence to someone else. Check out Romans 12 for more detail on how members of the body of Christ uphold each other.

Today I am grateful for the hands of Jesus, shown to me through a humble soul who demonstrates God's love on a daily basis.

Today I resolve to be the hands of Jesus to another.

Will you?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Prodigal Son, as told by 8-year-old Neil

Neil will be 8 on Saturday. Recently he was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, which I'm still getting my brain around ... but basically, it's a form of autism.

This has helped to explain a lot of mysteries about my beautiful miracle boy ... but what has continually amazed me is that despite many of his struggles, he retains the details of Bible stories after hearing them only once.

Today he heard the story of the Prodigal Son. His version, though, is uniquely Neil's -- and uniquely gorgeous.

Here's how he told it to me a couple of hours ago:

"Well, Mommy, see, there was this little boy. And he told his daddy, 'Give me money!' So his daddy gave him lots of money, and he went away on a loooooooooong trip. He made lots of friends. They helped him spend the money.

But then, the money was gone! He was poor.

So he decided to get a job. And you know what his job was, Mommy? He decided to FEED PIGS! (laughs)

But he was soooooooooo hungry. He decided he'd eat the pig's food. It was yucky. So he said, 'I think I'll go home now.'

His daddy gave him a big hug and threw a party. He thought he'd be a servant, but his daddy said he was still his boy."

At this point, I interrupted Neil and started to interject the meaning behind the story, but he cut me off.

"Wait, Mommy. There's more!" he told me. "The little boy had a big brudder (Neil's pronounciation). And this brudder was good. (Neil holds up his chubby hands and makes the sign for quotes when he says, "good.")

But he really WASN'T good. He had a bad heart.

When he heard the party music, he got mad! He went to his room and played on his computer. He was MAD. So his daddy came to his room. He said, 'Why don't you come down to the party?' And the big brudder said, 'I've been a good boy, but you don't even give me a goat. My little brudder spent all the money, and you gave him a big party.'

His daddy wanted him to come down to the party, but you know what, Mommy? That big brudder wouldn't come. He just sat in his room and kept being mad."

I was amazed at how Neil relayed the story of the elder brother. But what amazed me even more was that he didn't understand the point of the story. We had to talk about it afterwards.

It got me thinking ... how many of us miss that part of the Prodigal Son's tale, or conveniently overlook it?

This past week I fielded some comments at another blog of mine, Family Giving. They were directed at my church's acceptance of homosexuals. I didn't post any of the comments .... but Neil's version of the older brother in the Prodigal Son jarred me today.

How many people will be surprised to see those they hate ... being celebrated in Heaven?

How many people who go in and out of church doors week after week after week ... who esteem their lifestyles as holier than others ... will be angry that those others will be at the Lamb's feast?

See ... did you notice that when the Prodigal Son showed up, he returned not as a shining example of the perfect kid? He was filthy, covered in pig slime. He'd spent all the money. He'd trashed his dad's name. He came home thinking that he'd just be a servant. Boy, was he ever surprised when his dad hugged him and threw a party, yes?

And boy, was that older brother angry about it.

We never find out what happened to the older brother. I suspect that was Jesus's point, because all of us at one point or another don't want the younger brother to show up.

The thing is, though -- when the younger brother does return, do we say, "Unforgiveable! You had your chance! Take your filthy self and leave!"

Or do we celebrate with the Father that the lost sibling has returned?

Maybe Jesus left this as an open ending on purpose. Who will welcome the younger brother home? Who will decide the younger brother isn't worthy?

And what does this mean for the church? Are you part of a church that rejoices at the sight of the lost child? Or are you part of a church that condemns him?

I have to tell you ... I'm happy to say that my church wants the younger sibling back.

As for those who condemn my church and others for accepting the LGBT community ... have you considered that you might be the "older brudder?"